When I think back to my time in Myanmar I am filled with memories how the people dressed and the fascinating way the women decorated their faces. I’m sure these traditions will change as the country, long hidden from the world by a military dictatorship, comes into the global view.
Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a country where life has gone unchanged for 2500 years: a land filled with peasants and oxcarts and have eaten the same foods and worn the same kinds of clothing for generations.
I found this totally intriguing.
First, lets take the longyi. Perfect for the hot steaming country, a longyi is a long tube shaped garment, tied in the front by the men and on the side by women. Men can wrap theirs up to create shorts if they need more freedom. The longyis also become privacy protection when one was bathing in the river.
Here are a couple of photos to give an idea.
I know that as the world descends on Myanmar, many locals will adapt and change to Western dress. Here’s an example. You see five young guys sightseeing at a temple, four in longyi and one in jeans. The change is happening.
I might mention, that often when we were sightseeeing, we were asked to pose for photos by Burmese tourists. Tourists are such a novelty in this country that locals wanted to record our presence. An odd experience for a mid-westerner like me.
Probably more fascinating than the longyi is the Thanaka worn by children and women. When I first saw photos of women prior to taking the trip Myanmar, I thought this must be special ornamentation for festivals. Nope. It is every day wear.
It’s made from the bark of a tree—grinding the bark and making the paste is part of every woman’s daily routine. It cools the skin, prevents wrinkles and gives the women a chance to be creative.
I do have to point out these ladies. I was out for an early morning walk and came across these women having their photos taken by a German tourist. After we both got permission, snapped some shots and gave out a tips, he commented to me that he had been in this same part of Mandalay two years prior and had seen them sitting in exactly the same spot.
“Time stands still here,” he commented to me. I believe it.
You don’t have to go to a museum to view thousands of years of history in Myanmar. You can watch it play right out in front of you.